The Sunday Mail
ON-FIRE Zimbabwe international midfielder Marvelous Nakamba made his fourth straight start for Aston Villa and impressed in front of Prince William as the Clarets beat Norwich 5-1 at Carrow Road to register their second win of the season yesterday. The 25-year-old Nakamba once again relegated the highly rated Brazilian, Douglas Luiz to the bench, but the former Manchester City man came on late into the match and sealed the game with a fine strike.
Villa fan Prince William attended the clash with future King of England Prince George (6) and Princess Charlotte (4) and was captured by the cameras clapping hands as Aston Villa romped on to register one of their biggest Premiership victories on the road.
Aston Villa’s biggest win on the road remains the 6-1 thrashing of Bolton Wanderers on September 19, 2009. But, it was Nakamba’s steady performance at the heart of the midfield which must have impressed thousands of Zimbabweans who watched the game on TV at various locations across the country yesterday.
Nakamba played 90 minutes, doing most of the dirty work, allowing the stylish Jack Grealish to flourish going forward.
Grealish produced a performance fit for a king in front of the Duke of Cambridge as Villa crushed depleted Norwich and finally delivered on their attacking potential. Prince William, a Villa supporter who watched his team win promotion at Wembley in May, enjoyed a family outing at Carrow Road as two goals from Wesley and further strikes from the outstanding Grealish, Conor Hourihane and substitute Luiz ended a run of 10 away defeats in the top flight for Villa. Wesley could have had a first-half hat-trick, but his penalty was saved by Michael McGovern, the third-choice goalkeeper for injury-ravaged Norwich, whose manager Daniel Farke will want to forget his 100th league match in charge. Starting on the left of an attacking three, Grealish was given a free role by Dean Smith and repaid him with a creative master class. Hourihane and Tyrone Mings, booed throughout because of his spell at Ipswich, were also very impressive, but Grealish, local boy and captain, is the one Villa have been waiting for. This was his first top-flight goal in four years and more performances like this from him will make Villa believe they can charge up the table – and attract the attention of Gareth Southgate. For Norwich, last month’s win over Manchester City already feels a long time ago.
McGovern was playing his first senior game since April 2017, because of injuries to Tim Krul and Ralf Fahrmann.
With Norwich without a total of nine players due to injury, they were vulnerable, and it was no surprise to see Villa dangerous from the start. Anwar El Ghazi shot too close to McGovern, and John McGinn fired wide moments later.
Yet Villa were similarly wobbly.
Watching the way they defend wide areas, it is easy to understand why they had dropped a league-high eight points from winning positions before today.
Mings made several last-ditch interventions and Marco Stiepermann was wasteful from just outside the area when unmarked – as Villa made him pay soon afterwards.
El Ghazi crossed from the right, and Wesley was allowed to control the ball on his chest before poking it past McGovern. Two flares were launched on to the pitch from the Villa section, claret and blue smoke briefly filling the air.
It was desperately poor defending from Norwich’s makeshift centre-back, Ibrahim Amadou, and his partner Ben Godfrey.
Amadou is playing there only because of injuries to others, while Godfrey needs a hernia operation, but still, Farke would have been furious.
The lively Todd Cantwell was causing Villa plenty of problems, but Mings and partner Bjorn Engels kept them at bay.
By now, Grealish was growing into the game, drifting into spaces between midfield and attack and leaving Norwich stumped as to how to mark him.
Villa moved up a gear.
El Ghazi nodded against the bar after Wesley’s header had cannoned back off McGovern’s chest, before McGinn curled just wide.
Brighton 3 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley 1 – 0 Everton
Liverpool 2 – 1 Leicester City
Norwich City 1 – 5 Aston Villa
Watford 0 – 0 Sheffield United
West Ham United 1 – 1 Crystal Palace